Pucker up, American Star Vodka now with Caviar Lime!

CaviarLimeBlog

Do you add lime to your favorite vodka drink?

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Our small flavor still, nicknamed UFO due to it being silver and bulbous, is cooking at full tilt these days. We’re making a caviar lime flavored version of our award-winning American Star Vodka. Caviar Limes get their name from the little flavor bursts you get when you break them open.

We’ve had a lot of fun making this delicious spirit! This vodka is a bright, flavorful, and clean

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expression of the unique and rare caviar lime. The caviar lime is less acidic than its more common lime relatives, and contains essential oils in its skin that are not found in other citrus.

These limes are grown nearby, especially for us on one of the few farms producing caviar limes in the entire country. Once the fresh limes are delivered to the distillery, we carefully infuse them with our six-time distilled American Star Vodka. The resulting spirit is a rare vodka that is perfect for sipping straight or replacing other vodkas in your favorite cocktails.

American Star Caviar Lime is the new epitome in ultra premium citrus vodka.

You’ll start seeing American Star Caviar Lime Vodka in bars, restaurants,

resorts, and specialty retailers staring in September.

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Announcement: Partnership with Southern Wine & Spirits

We are delighted to announce our excImagelusive statewide partnership with Southern Wine & Spirits becomes official on July 29th! 

Southern Wine and Spirits of America is the largest wine and spirits distributor in the United States with operations in 35 states. Southern was one of the first companies to have state-wide distribution in California, which is the company’s largest market.

Ascendant Spirits will participate in the The Artisanal Group, a collection of craft brands from within the larger Southern catalog. Our Breaker Bourbon, American Star Vodka and Silver Lightning Moonshine will be featured products, soon to be followed by American Star Caviar Lime Vodka, American Star Strawberry Vodka and Pink Lightning Moonshine.Southern represents approximately 1,600 wine, spirits, beer, and beverage suppliers from around the world, and markets, promotes, merchandises, and distributes over 5,000 brands. The company employs more than 11,000 people. During a working week, Southern sales, delivery, and support staff collectively call on or service over 200,000 different chain and independent retail and restaurant customers across the country!

Ascendant Spirits is proud to be a member of The Artisanal Group, which was formed to direct contemporary mixologists, savvy buyers and adventuresome restaurateurs to hand-crafted spirits from around the globe.Be sure to look for Ascendant Spirits products in the upcoming Artisanal Group product catalog.

Sincerely,
Stephen Gertman

Struck by a bolt of Silver Lightning Moonshine

Silver Lightning Moonshine

Everyone’s heard of the original American outlaw signature drink: moonshine. But not everyone has tried it. Have you?

You’ll soon get to taste the best moonshine West of the Pecos (and maybe east, too), because Ascendant Spirits’ Master Distiller  Steve Gertman has perfected a truly Californian small batch of premo moonshine.

Drinking moonshine is an American custom. Since the 1700s American farmers have been mashing their leftover grain and corn to make whiskey. Moonshine gets its renegade reputation from those who hid their copper stills in the densely forested Appalachian mountains to avoid paying taxes on the product.

Making moonshine is an art that’s been secretly passed down for generations. Moonshine is made by fermenting corn in water and yeast. The yeast eats up the sugar in the corn and transforms it into a potent alcohol. Corn is naturally sweet, giving moonshine its
signature nectarous taste.

Back when, bootleggers would boil the fermented corn mash in the middle of the night using only moonlight to guide them through the nighttime process of distillation. Working only by the moonlight helped hide the fire’s smoke and their secret from the law.

Steve Gertman pouring grain

Our master distiller, Steve, took a rugged process that too often yields less than superior results and perfected it. Other moonshines that cut corners and use inferior ingredients will taste like flavored nail polish remover. However, Ascendant Spirits’ small batch Silver Lightning Moonshine is a premium craft product that can be enjoyed neat or with your favorite mixer. All hard liquor has rough roots. But hard liquor becomes fine liquor when craft distillers like us take the time to refine and perfect the product.

Silver Lightning runs clean and smooth with floral and maize notes on a creamy sweet finish. A good moonshine should taste like the grains from which it is made, which is why we use only 100% yellow sweet corn sourced from New Mexico.

Our unique California coastal valley marine climate allows us to produce some of the best whiskey and spirits in the U.S.A.

And moonshine isn’t just for drinking in overalls, comfortable as they may be. We’ve brought this American original into the 21st century and made it a drink for everyone. Make sure you get a bottle quickly, because once the moon comes out on July 2nd it’ll be gone.

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Dreamin’ of Strawberry Fields

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Nestled in the central coast’s agricultural belt, Ascendant Spirits has access to a multitude of fresh produce year-round. May is one of the best times of the year because it means its strawberry season! While most people may associate strawberries with shortcakes and chocolates, our master distiller thinks of ways to infuse this berry into our spirits.  Of course, there’s no recipe book for fresh fruit infusions, so our distillery has become quite the science lab over the last few months. After just a little more tinkering, Steve (the master distiller) and Anthony (his apprentice) will have the perfectly balanced recipe for both a strawberry moonshine and strawberry vodka that promises to refresh during the warm summer months.

 

 These spirits’ unique flavors are derived from local organic strawberries grown just 35.5 miles north of the distillery. Since its just a hop and a skip away, a few of us decided to take a field trip over to Santa Maria to meet the farmers and see what strawberry growing is really all about.

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As you can see from these pictures, there is a reason why this is called the agricultural belt. In Santa Maria alone, 437 million pounds of strawberries are grown annually. We purchase our organic strawberries from Innovative Produce Farm, which ships their crops all over the US and beyond (fun fact: the majority of their broccoli is sent to China!).  While we were there, we had the pleasure of meeting George, a farmer whose family has been on these lands for the last five generations. In addition to strawberries, he grows broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, celery, and kale, rotating the crops seasonally. The acidic soil and constant sunshine are the key ingredients to growing the perfect strawberries. The black plastic you see in the picture holds in the moist humus soil, protects against weeds, and lessens the need to water. 

 

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After walking through the fields with George, we were handed our crates of strawberries. The aroma of these berries filled the car and we couldn’t help trying a few. All I can say is I cannot wait for Steve to finish blending these little bites of perfection into our spirits!

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Breaker Bourbon: The Ultimate Small Batch Bourbon

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With our second batch of Breaker Bourbon nearly ready for distribution, we thought we’d share a little about its production process. Every batch of Breaker Bourbon is blended from 8 hand-selected barrels of bourbon each aged for at least five years, making it a truly small-batch bourbon. Before blending, our Master Distiller Steve will sample from a number of barrels and identify their overarching flavor characteristics. Since each barrel ages uniquely, some barrels may develop more oak flavor than others, or sweetness (caramel, butterscotch), vanilla, fruit (citrus, candy), spice (a lot of it comes from the rye)… Steve will then select barrels that mesh well together based on these characteristics for an even but interesting flavor profile. Our Breaker Bourbon batch one was said by spirits aficionado and reviewer Forrest Cokely to be full of candied grains, citrus, vanilla, spice, fruit, mint, and herbs. K & L Wine Merchants noted its spice and sweet candied citrus. Steve says our second batch is even better than the first!

Once these 8 barrels are selected and blended, they are proofed down to 90 proof with reverse osmosis water, resulting in some 2400 pounds of bourbon. This produces around 1500 bottles (750 mL) of Breaker Bourbon!

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Taste California Petition

After trying Breaker Bourbon and AImagemerican Star Vodka in our tasting room, many people promptly grab their wallets and ask for a bottle. They figure that distilleries, like wineries and breweries, can sell glasses or bottles of their products in their tasting rooms. Wrong!

After the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, states were given the authority to regulate the alcohol industry to prevent the same abuse of power that led to the passing of Prohibition in 1919. As a result, states created a three-tier distribution system where alcohol producers, including distilleries, can only sell their products to wholesale distributors, who in turn can only sell to retailers. Consumers can only get alcohol products from retailers except in states that have made exceptions for breweries and wineries. California is one such state–breweries and wineries are able to simultaneously be producers and retailers.

In California, distributors have lobbied to prevent distilleries from gaining the same privileges as breweries and wineries. However, these restrictions on distilleries are especially detrimental for small craft distilleries like Ascendant Spirits who could use extra revenue from selling in a tasting room to generate more products and expand. We believe that allowing distilleries to sell in their tasting rooms wouldn’t hurt distributors as they fear–consumers who would buy bottles in tasting rooms would more likely make their return purchases in their nearest retail store rather than in tasting rooms. Allowing tasting room purchases would sustain the attention of consumers and benefit distributors in the long run.

The Taste California petition, which advocates for distilleries to be able to sell products in their tasting room, is a win-win for distilleries, distributors, and retailers!

Please support Ascendant Spirits’ efforts to try to sell our products in our tasting room by signing the Taste California Petition here!

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Lessons in Vodka

vodka

So what exactly makes vodka, well, “vodka”? By definition, it is “neutral spirit distilled or treated after distillation with charcoal or other materials so as to be without distinctive character, aroma, taste or color”. The word Vodka comes from Russia meaning little water and was originally made there from rye grain, but vodka can virtually be made from anything that ferments including barley, grapes, milk, or, in our case, corn.  A specific vodka-making yeast is used that to convert the sugar into ethanol. This product is then distilled and the ethanol and water separate due to the different in boiling points. The alcohol must reach 190 proof to be considered a vodka during distillation, which eliminates the majority of odors and tastes. Only after this process is complete can our master distiller then add water to proof the product down to palatable levels. This is the point where we craft our vodka’s distinct flavor using a proprietary filtration technology.  The process varies slightly when we create a flavored vodka by adding fresh organic caviar limes or strawberries, but the end result is still a fantastic vodka!

caivar limes strawberries

Happy Earth Day 2013!

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Here in Santa Barbara County, Earth Day is a big deal – the city hosts a festival with an eco-marketplace, live music performances, and even guest speakers such as Bill Nye (you know, the science guy!). Several non-profit and socially conscious brand representatives educated visitors about how they can positively impact the planet every day, not just on April 22. At Ascendant Spirits, we also believe that Earth Day is every day.

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Our distillery was founded in Buellton because of its proximity to fresh and organic produce. Using local ingredients enhances the taste of our products, eliminates our need to transport items thousands of miles across the country, and ensures that our fruit is grown using sustainable farming techniques. We regularly visit Goodland Organics in Goleta and Innovative Produce in Santa Maria to speak with the farmers about each harvest and to build relationships within our local community.

From the beginning, we have strived to use technologies that reduce our impact on the planet. For example, all of our machines are powered by steam, and we could easily just dump the water down the drain once we finished one distilling run. Instead, we collect and recycle it through our boiler to create steam again for the next run. This substantially limits the amount of water we extract from this drought-prone region (actual numbers will be coming soon; we haven’t received our first utilities statement yet!). We also have found some interesting uses for some of the waste that is generated from the distillation process, which includes grains, acetone and methanol.

Pig FarmThe grains we use (corn, barley, and rye) are left behind once the ethanol evaporates during distillation process. This grain mash is not particularly useful to us, but we found someone just down the road who can’t get enough of it – a local pig farmer! Since the ethanol completely evaporates out, the mash is the perfect blend of grains for a healthy pig diet. Acetone and methanol are separate byproducts of the distillation process and if consumed they can cause blindness or even fatality. Obviously, we keep these compounds far from our end products, but these are not useless substances. Acetone is an effective cleaning solvent that we use to wash our floors. Methanol is one of the cleanest burning fuels on the market, and we have future plans to convert our forklift to be run exclusively on it. This not only reduces the effect on the atmosphere, but eliminates the amount of waste generated on premise.

Today, we raise our glasses to all of our partners who have helped us reach some of our sustainability goals and we cannot wait to find new ways to reduce our impact even more. From Ascendant Spirits – Happy Earth Day!

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Bourbon 101

Whiskey infographic

Whiskey infographic by Sean Seidell Art-Science

With bourbon’s recent surge in popularity, people are also becoming more curious about how it’s made and what makes it different from other whiskeys. As shown in the infographic above, bourbon is a type of whiskey. Whereas whiskeys are produced in many countries (Ireland, Scotland, Canada…), bourbon can only be produced in the United States. This is the result of  a congressional action in 1964 that classified bourbon as a distinctive product unique to the United States. This contrasts with the popular belief that bourbon must be made in Kentucky or even more exclusively, in Bourbon County, Kentucky.

The Federal Government also regulates the attributes used to differentiate distilled spirits. Bourbon has quite a few:

1. In order for a whiskey to be called a bourbon, its grain mixture (a.k.a. mash bill) must be at least 51% corn.

2. After this mixture is fermented, it must be distilled to no more than 160 proof.

3. After distillation, it must be proofed down to no more than 125 proof before it is put in barrels to be aged.

4. It must be aged in brand new, white american oak barrels that have been charred on the inside.

5. After being aged, it cannot be bottled at an alcohol content lower than 80 proof (40% alcohol by volume).

Barrel aging develops and intensifies the taste and color of the bourbon. Under-aging can lead to harsh and hot flavors, while over-aging can lead the bourbon to be over-oaked. In bourbon country, a barrel of bourbon can be aged for as little as 3 months or as long as 30 years. However, in Buellton, where we age our Breaker Bourbon Whisky, we are able to achieve the same level of aging as a 5 to 6 year aged barrel of bourbon from Kentucky in just 2 to 3 years. This is because the aging process is highly dependent on the rate of aspiration of the barrel–basically, the barrel breathing. In the heat, the pores in the wood of the barrel will expand; the barrel will exhale. This will cause the liquid to pass through the charred layer, which acts as an ion filter, and into the pores of the wood. Here it will pick up the typical delicious flavors associated with bourbon — smoke, oak, vanilla, spice, caramel… yum. In the cold, the pores in the barrel will contract, and the liquid will move into the interior of the barrel. Buellton’s typical daily temperature fluctuations of between 40 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit allow for a higher rate of expansion and contraction (the barrel aspirating), accelerating bourbon aging!

Goodland Organics Farm Visit


inside a caviar lime

 

Caviar Limes are these strange little citrus fruit are native to Australia, and have become a high demand item for accenting sushi dishes, gelato desserts, and, of course, hand-crafted spirits. Today, there are only four farms in the US that grow this variety of lime and Goleta’s very own Goodland Organic Farm is the only one that grows them organically. Luckily for us at Ascendant Spirits, this farm is just miles away so we can infuse our spirits with the limes the same day they were picked. 

 

caviar lime flowercaviar lime on vine

Since I never had heard of a caviar lime before Ascendant Spirits, our team decided to visit the farm for ourselves and get a closer look at how these fruit are produced at the Goodland Organic Farm. The views of this farm are breathtaking – the rows of hass avocado trees, cherimoyas, coffee, and caviar limes overlook the Pacific Ocean, and on a clear day the outline of the Channel Islands can be seen. The entire farm is located in the mountains, so the caviar limes’ trees reside on the steep hillside. Spring is just the start of their growing season, so some trees are budding vibrant purple flowers while others were filled with ripe caviar limes. The fruit and flowers are guarded by sharp thorns, so pickers must wear thick gloves to protect themselves.

 

Goodland Farm

Goodland Organic is certified organic by California Certified Organic Farmer (CCOF) organization, whose accredited by the USDA and meets all the standards of the National Organics Program. For this group, organic food means “produced without the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, sewage sludge, bioengineering (GMOs),  or ionizing radiation”. In additional to verifying the crops are grown organically, this group also provides farmers with the resources to educate consumers, advocate policy, and marketing support so that these farms can compete with non-organic farms. These ethical practices make for fresh delicious fruit that we love infusing our spirits with!

{coming soon: caviar lime gin & caviar lime vodka}

 

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